Everything You Thought You Knew About Metadata…
1. Metadata Matters
No matter what you might think, metadata matters. A lot. It won't make bad books sell well. But with literally millions of books for sale online, it makes a huge difference for those deserving titles that are slipping down your backlist, no longer carried in bricks and mortar stores, waiting to be discovered online.
Most people think about famous titles when they think about metadata. Like 50 Shades of Whatever. Perversely, metadata doesn't matter quite as much for books that feature the best metadata—new books and bestsellers. Readers are going to find those titles one way or another. But Pets and Heaven—What the Bible Says About Our Animal Friends could use some additional metadata to move up the "Pet Loss Grief" section of Amazon from its current position at No. 852,554 in books.
2. Know which metadata matters the most.
You've got to walk with metadata before you run. Metadata mastery takes time. Title and author are searched more often than publisher, subtitles more than the number of pages.
Different national organizations that oversee book metadata have different names for the most important metadata. The U.S.'s BISAC/BISG talks about the "Core Metadata Elements." There are 31 in all. Some are mainly important to resellers—like "Case Pack/Carton Quantity"—rather than to readers. BIC in the U.K. is more down-to-earth with its 11 BIC Basic elements. They're mostly what you would expect: title, price, pub data, ISBN, and so on.
Included in both lists is something you may not think of as metadata: the cover. Nielsen's metadata study, "The Link Between Metadata and Sales," released in early 2012, proved that the cover is in fact the most important metadata element. Sales for titles with all 11 elements, including the cover, were 473 percent higher than for titles missing the cover. No other metadata element comes close for sales impact. Covers still sell books.
Thad McIlroy is an electronic publishing consultant, analyst and author, and principal of The Future of Publishing. Since 1988, Thad McIlroy has provided consulting services to publishing and media companies, printers, prepress shops, design and advertising agencies, as well as vendors serving the publishing industry.